17 people arrested in 3 countries in Australian drug bust

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SYDNEY (AP) — Police in three countries arrested 17 people on Tuesday and seized nearly 2 tons of drugs in connection with what Australian authorities said was an effort by organized crime groups to transport large amounts of drugs into Australia.

Ten people in Sydney, five Australians in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and two people in the Netherlands were arrested as part of an investigation into what Australian police say were two interlinked crime syndicates operating across the three countries. Officials in the Netherlands seized 1.8 tons of MDMA, also known as ecstasy, 136 kilograms (300 pounds) of cocaine and 15 kilograms (30 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine, all bound for Australia, the Australian Federal Police said. The drugs were worth around 810 million Australian dollars ($640 million).

"We will allege that the two syndicates have long been involved in organizing high-volume imports of illegal substances into Australia, and laundering millions of dollars and dealing in the proceeds of crime, both domestically and internationally," Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan told reporters.

The five Australians arrested in Dubai were expected to be extradited to Australia within the next 60 days, Gaughan said. Those arrested in Sydney face a variety of charges, including conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of drugs, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

A statement from officials in Dubai said the police arrests there reflect the country's "strong stance against drug trafficking." The UAE's Ministry of Justice and the Dubai Public Prosecution Office were involved in the sting.

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